Russian tanker firm responds over ‘near-collision’ with fishing boat

THE Russian owners of an oil tanker involved in a 'near-collision' with a fishing boat off the Suffolk coast say the incident has prompted them to remind their crews about the need for safety at sea.

The Zalviv Vostock was on collision course with the Lowestoft-based boat The Chloe Paige on February 9, while its owner Richard Morgan and crewman Brian Wright were fishing for cod and skate.

Mr Morgan, 32, and Mr Wright, 71, claimed the 747ft Singapore-registered tanker nearly sunk the 34ft Chloe Paige, despite their efforts to warn the vessel of their position over the radio while it was two miles away.

The incident prompted renewed concerns about the number of tankers that gather off the coast of North Suffolk to carry out controversial ship-to-ship oil transfers. There are fears that a collision could lead to an oil spillage that would prove disastrous for the region's beaches and its seaside tourism industry.

Following the 'near collision', the Chief Executive of Choose Suffolk, Tim Passmore, wrote to the owners of the Zaliv Vostock, Prisco Shipping based in Primorsky, Russia, demanding an explanation.

Mr Passmore said that he was encouraged by the reply he had received from the company's deputy managing director Alexey Matskevich. In it, he tells Mr Passmore: 'We have conducted a full investigation into the incident and have reminded our crews of the importance of adhering to stringent regulations....we of course recognise the importance of safety at sea and our responsibilities concerning the environment.'

In his original letter to Prisco, Mr Passmore said he explained that the tourist industry in Suffolk is worth �1.75bn a year to the local economy. 'This reply from Mr Matskevich is welcome and I am encouraged that such an important issue has gone straight to the top of this global company.' he said.

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'Prisco's reassurance that they have investigated this incident, that they have been in contact with the crew of The Chloe-Paige and that they fully appreciate the importance of the tourist industry in Suffolk is vital.'

'We of course recognise the important of the oil industry to the UK plc...but this must not put at risk this unique shoreline and all it offers here in Suffolk. It is vital that companies like Prisco are held to account and their investigation coupled with the follow up work with crews is something we can be re-assured about.'

in his letter, Mr Mastkevich added that 'Fortunately the incident did not result in any pollution or injury ... and please be reassured that we fully appreciate the important of the tourist industry to the county of Suffolk and all reasonable steps are being taken to minimize the risk of similar incidents occurring in the future.'

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said last month that it was carrying out inquiries into the incident and that it had reported the incident to Sirenac, a pan-European database for port control.